The Lens: Final answer
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, in conjunction with Cinema St. Louis, Dec. 16, 2008 - I hear two negative comments about the extraordinary "Slumdog Millionaire," certainly the best movie of 2008, and both comments I think are unfair:
- "How can such a lowly slumdog speak such good English?"
- "What a terrible combination. I don't think mixing Bollywood with such horrors of street children in Bombay works well at all."
First of all, how can the entire country of India speak English? Duh, it's an English-made movie! Secondly, anyone who asks that question mirrors the disgusting prejudice against these poor children that the torturing cops displayed in the movie. Yes, brilliance can come from anywhere or from any people. Hasn't our own president-elect proven that?
And as for the Bollywood sequence, that was just enough to elevate me to the state of cinematic bliss. Besides, all the Bollywood material was extra-diegetic. It was in no way connected with the story, just with the movie. I also think it was a brilliant ploy to keep people in their seats to honor the cast and credits, plus it put everybody in such a wonderfully good mood after witnessing all that did transpire in the unfolding of this marvelous story. Not one person in a rather large audience at the Plaza Frontenac seemed to even think about getting up when the credits rolled on this one. I am ready to see it again, although I just saw it Sunday night.
Another complaint I heard about "Slumdog Millionaire" is that the things they did to the children in this movie were over the top and completely unbelievable. Only the naive would say such a thing. My wife, who has spent considerable time in India, said what she saw was no surprise. In reality, it is not only worse than that in India, but in her own home country, Thailand, too. I have witnessed the result of such atrocities myself on the streets of Bangkok. I've even seen a mafia van pick up the kids late at night after they panhandled their quota.
Finally, although I admire Danny Boyle's fine film "Millions," I do not see it as a pre-requisite to viewing "Slumdog." The earlier film is certainly worthy of your Netflix queue, but see "Slumdog" now. It is interesting that similar stories are told in both movies, although they are worlds apart in every other category except to say they are both great.
I have been fortunate to already see "Adam Resurrected," "Milk," "The Wrestler" and "WALL-E," all on the big screen. "Slumdog" takes all of those wonderful movies down. I admit that while still admitting that I loved those other movies, too.